Apple recently announced an education-oriented media event to take place in New York on January 19, confirming rumors that have been circulating in the tech world since the New Year that a new Apple product would be unveiled at this event.
But don't get too excited. Apple has already indicated that this new product won't be the iPad 3, or anywhere near that level.
But according to Ars Technica, which cites inside sources, this event will debut a series of updates to its iBook platform, which could have wide-ranging application in the textbook industry. Apple plans to create interactive textbooks -- or "Garage Band for textbooks" -- for the iPhone and iPad. Basically, this product would do for textbooks what Apple's Garage Band did for home-recording.
The education publishing industry -- $4.5 billion net sales revenue in 2010 for higher education and $5.5 billion for K-12 -- is one of the few markets Apple has not yet tapped. Apple has already started to put iPads into classrooms, through its 2011 initiative to donate older generation tablets to Teach for America. Adding current software, which allows students to interact with texts, seems the next step.
We've already seen a little of what Apple can do with interactive iBooks, with the free release of Yellow Submarine last December. This iBook featured 14 video clips from the 1968 film, audio clips of the accompanying Beatles' music and Sir George Martin's score, a "read aloud" functionality that allows readers to follow along with a narrator, and interactive features that let readers tap the screen and make the pictures move.
Several reports believe the new Apple iBook product will support the EPUB3 e-book standard, which allows for a greater interactive text experience. This latest version of the EPUB format would hopefully right some of the e-publishing frustrations, which has left authors and publishers little control over the layout and formatting of e-books.
Thus far, the fixed layouts required for many children's books, the panel layouts for comic books, an figures for academic papers have all been a problem for past generations of e-readers. These, along with new interaction features, are expected to be a part of Apple's new EPUB3 format, which is also expected to be debuted at the upcoming event.
Amazon launched its new e-book format, the KF3, vfor the Kindle only four days ago.
[Image Credit: Ars Technica]